Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Woodside residents concerned about speeding

Problem especially troublesome near Woodside Elementary School

Express Staff Writer

Hailey residents Maureen Dougherty and her third-grade daughter wait as a car rolls through an intersection early Tuesday morning at the Woodside Boulevard entrance to the Woodside Elementary School. Dougherty believes inattentive drivers speeding down Woodside Boulevard pose a threat to her daughter?s safety when she walks or rides her bike to school. Photo by David N. Seelig

It seems nearly everyone can agree that traffic, speeding and inattentive drivers are an issue of concern up and down Woodside Boulevard in southern Hailey.

What should be done about the problem is where the rubber meets the road.

Traffic along this major south-Hailey roadway has become an issue of concern for those parents who have young children attending the newly opened Woodside Elementary School.

Maureen Dougherty is one such parent.

On every weekday morning and afternoon Dougherty accompanies her third-grade daughter by foot or bicycle to and from school at Woodside Elementary. Although her family only lives several blocks away from the school on Mountain Ash, Dougherty wouldn't think of letting her daughter go to school alone.

Woodside Boulevard is just too unsafe for young children commuting on their own, she said during an interview Monday.

A recent incident at the entrance to Woodside Elementary off of Woodside Boulevard highlighted Dougherty's concern.

As she and her daughter were entering the crosswalk at the entrance to the school, a driver rolled right on through the intersection and straight toward them, Dougherty said.

Fortunately for her daughter, Dougherty was in the lead. At the last moment, the driver spotted her and slammed on her brakes, she said.

"Had I not been in front, she (the driver) probably would have hit my daughter," she said.

In Dougherty's opinion, one of the main things contributing to speeding in the area is improperly placed signs warning drivers that they're entering a school zone.

To the north and south of the entrance to Woodside Elementary, school zone signs are placed about a block away from the busy intersection. Dougherty thinks additional warning signs should be placed even farther away from the intersection.

"I think people don't realize they're entering a school zone and that it's 15 miles per hour," she said.

Dougherty is also concerned about what will happen once winter arrives and snow begins to pile up on the sidewalks that lead up to the school. If the snow isn't properly removed from the sidewalks, children will be forced to walk in the road along Woodside Boulevard, she said.

"These kids are still going to be walking," Dougherty said.

The principle of Woodside Elementary School, Gary St. George, is also concerned about the safety of students walking to school.

"It gets kind of busy there," St. George said of the entrance to Woodside Elementary.

To better watch over traffic there, St. George recently asked Blaine County School District Superintendent Jim Lewis for permission to place an adult monitor at the intersection during school hours.

Lewis has given his support to the idea, St. George said, "to kind of referee the comings and goings."

St. George thinks the lack of a center painted line on Woodside Boulevard may also be a contributing factor adding to the speeding problem. "If you stay between the lines it checks your speed," he said.

To the north of Woodside Elementary, Woodside Boulevard resident Kathy Nice is fed up with speeding drivers.

Nice has made several calls to the Hailey Police Department to complain about the speeding problem, she said. She estimates that some drivers are reaching speeds between 45 and 50 mph.

"It's so wide through there," she said. "It's just a speedway."

Although the Hailey Police Department has sent officers out after she's called, the speeding has continued, Nice said.

The bottom line is something more needs to be done before someone is seriously hurt, she said. "Something to get these idiots to slow down."

Today, the city of Hailey is in the final stages of completing a new transportation masterplan. The plan should be ready for preliminary release sometime in early November, Hailey City Engineer Tom Hellen said Tuesday.

When complete, the transportation master plan will include a new stop sign blueprint for the city and a recommendation for sidewalks. Still, until it's done, Hellen said he's holding off on installing new signs in the city.

The Hailey Police Department receives numerous complaints about unsafe driving throughout town.

"It's not just in one place," Hellen said.

Due to the recent infusion of local option tax funds, the Hailey Police Department has been able to add a new unmarked police patrol car, he noted.

Calls to Hailey Police Chief Brian McNary weren't returned in time for this article.

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